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Intake of sugars not related to obesity levels

NZ Study shows current intake of sugars not related to obesity levels

New research shows that New Zealanders’ current intake of sugars is not associated with being overweight or obese.

The New Zealand research, headed by University of Otago’s Dr Winsome Parnell and recently published online by Public Health Nutrition*, examined data collected in the most recent New Zealand nutrition surveys for adults and children.

“We found that current intake of total sugars was actually significantly lower amongst obese children, compared to normal-weight children.

“In both adults and children, those who consumed the least sugars from foods were actually significantly more likely to be overweight or obese,” said Dr Parnell.

The research, analysing 24-hour food recall data collected in National Nutrition Surveys, also showed no relationship between current intake of sugary drinks and body weight.

“The majority of energy we consume from foods and drinks comes from either fat or carbohydrate (sugar being a carbohydrate), so it’s not surprising that we found those who had higher fat diets had lower sugar intakes and vice versa. It’s also not surprising that those with the higher fat diets tended to weigh more, since fat is more energy dense,” said Dr Parnell.

While this is only one study amongst many fuelling the scientific debate about possible risk factors for obesity, it is valuable because it uses accurate and up-to-date dietary information, representing intakes across New Zealand.

“This study is the only one of its kind using New Zealand data and shows current intake of sugars is not related to current weight status. The next step is to now examine whether the intake over time of particular nutrients such as sugar and fat, leads to changes in body weight over time. This is something not examined in the New Zealand population to date,
Many other one-off studies previously reported in the media have been undertaken overseas where food consumption and activity patterns differ markedly from New Zealand,” said Dr Parnell.

*Reference: Parnell W, Wilson N, Alexander, Wohlers M, Williden M, Mann J, Gray. Exploring the relationship between sugars and obesity. Public Health Nutrition, 2007. DOI:10.1017/S1368980007000948. E publication date September 21 2007.

To access a full copy of the paper go to:

The Sugar Research Advisory Service (SRAS) is an information service funded by the New Zealand Sugar Company Limited. The SRAS is advised by a panel of independent health and nutrition experts whose role is to review all SRAS-produced information and guide the SRAS on issues of health and nutrition.


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